In the latest instalment of his diary, Pissed-off Toff worries that he is going mad … and denounces Boris Johnson as a common criminal.
As the world goes mad, and as I enter the eighth month of solitary lockdown, I am worried that I am losing my bearings. I send an email to a friend in his Mediterranean villa and sign off with ‘love’, as one does … and get no reply. Help! Does this mean he thinks that I’ve finally come out of the closet and am making myself available? Or I stare at a draft article for this blog and am quite unable to decide whether it is any good.
And then there was a scene a fortnight or so ago at a table that a friend had taken at the Maison François, the recently opened Mayfair bistro that is already established as one of the best and chicest eateries in London. As I waited outside the front door for my host to appear, a number of grand elderly figures arrived and we exchanged looks, our social antennae alert.
Shortly afterwards, it emerged that our group of six was seated between a party hosted by the Duchess of Cornwall and a circular table occupied by her security detail. We noted that the Duchess was sensibly placed in an alcove with her back to the room. We overheard one of the security people muttering that they were not as close to her as they would have wished. But apart from us, no-one else in the restaurant had any idea that she was there.
It had been well managed. And it was impossible not to throw a few glances in the direction of the royal table, at which one of the guests was a formidable old trout whom I thought I recognised. Where had I met her? I couldn’t work it out. So I looked … and I carried on looking … and to my shame, was given a dressing-down by my host. “You’re staring, Pissed-off Toff,” he said, annoyed; all the more so in that one of the grandest people in the Duchess’s party was a cousin of his. “Stop it now!”
Seldom have I felt more chastened. Worst of all, I was not aware that I was staring. I thought I was just looking. Nor even was the identity of the peeress (for that, I am sure, is what she was) of any great consequence as far as I was concerned. Mine was just idle curiosity; but in this context a major social sin.
Which brings me back to my point … namely that after many months of solitary confinement and disorientation in the face of the slow suicide of my country, I fear I have lost my bearings to a worrying degree.
* * * * *
So what does one do when the whole world has gone mad?
The Napoleonic Wars and even the Second World War seem quite sane in comparison to our own times. There was an enemy which had to be fought, and so we fought. But now we are wantonly destroying the whole fabric of our nation in a ‘fight’ against an ‘enemy’ which poses no threat of any great significance.
Every day, as I observe masked zombies sleepwalking around the capital of our new dystopia, I ask myself how this can be happening, and how it can be that I am now living in a British Soviet Union, with a servile populace embracing a creed that they know is destroying them. Or am I perhaps a down-at-heel Odysseus, the one mortal in an underworld inhabited by pale lifeless souls … but with the advantage of a ready supply of Waitrose gin.
* * * * *
And if one is to continue reading the newspapers, that supply of gin is a basic necessity as a defence against the onslaught of virus-related mumbo-jumbo that resembles nothing so much as the obscure theological disputes of ancient Byzantium. Our souls are imperilled if we ignore ‘the R number’; our lives endangered if we fail to ‘flatten the curve’; our very existence threatened if we do not create a new ‘firebreak’. There’s a whole new lexicon of quasi-scientific superstition which makes the alphas and omegas of the medieval church seem the embodiment of sober reason.
Here, in The Daily Telegraph, is yet another two-page advert containing further indoctrination about the virus. “Medium, high or very high: what are the rules in your tier?” it asks, before going on to claim that “the UK Government’s tiers system simplifies the Covid-19 guidance […] to make it easier to avoid mistakes.”
‘Make it easier to avoid making mistakes’? Why not, please: ‘Tell you what you can or can’t do, you miserable serf, otherwise you’ll be fined £10,000’? Wouldn’t that be more honest? But when did honest facts ever have anything to do with this fiction which is consuming us?
The main image in this huge propaganda poster shows a couple of grandparents (at least they are for once white, not black), arms around shoulders, observing their grandchildren from a distance, outdoors … this in soft focus, as if the suppression of every one of our liberties were so very cosy and touching. Again, the dishonesty, the deceit. And by way of ‘simplification’, there follows a mass of minutely calibrated rules which a trained lawyer would struggle to understand; this being the fine print of our servitude.
How much simpler if the high priests of the Covid religion just said that from now on everything – absolutely everything – is illegal, on pain of death and damnation. But I am getting ahead of myself. Because it seems, as I write, that they have effectively just said that, by introducing a new national ‘lockdown’ … another bold stride towards our national extinction.
As darkness falls, I return to the piano; but I am not sure how long this defence against despair will last.
* * * * *
Some book reviews are so thorough that after reading them, you don’t see much point in buying the book in question. So it was with Lynn Barber’s review (The Spectator, 24 October) of Tom Bower’s new biography of Boris Johnson.
Bower specialises in extended hatchet jobs, and the appearance of this book was nothing if not timely. Only a month ago rumours started circulating, among my friends in clubland, of mishaps in the Johnson household. He’s broke, said one informant: having earned £370,000 a year as a columnist for The Daily Telegraph, he’s now earning a mere £150,000 as PM and cannot begin to keep up with his numerous commitments. His ‘partner’ Carrie Symonds has left him, said another. Boris isn’t the father of her son, said a third, naming the purported real father (an OE friend of his, apparently).
All of which is inconsequential tittle-tattle compared to the truths that emerge from Bower’s tome, for which the sources include Johnson’s mother Charlotte, his sister Rachel, his first wife Allegra Mostyn-Owen, and his mistress Petronella Wyatt. But not, however, his “monstrously egotistical” father Stanley, who is revealed as a serial wife-beater (“he hit me many times over many years,” said his former spouse) and as … well, a fully paid-up shit. Certainly, the one time I met him, I took a strong and immediate dislike to him.
But the sins of the father are just a warm-up for a prolonged exposé of Boris’s failings. We learn that he has no close male friends; which is news to me (I’d always thought, for example, that the Earl Spencer was a good chum of his). More seriously, writes our reviewer, “his lies are far too numerous to list, but it means that anyone who takes Boris’s word for anything is a fool.” The denunciations come thick and fast. “He’s a selfish bastard,” says his daughter Lara. According to Max Hastings, who gave him his first leg-up as a journalist, he is characterised by “an absence of conscience, principle or scruple.” And here, in the most devasting critique of all, is the columnist Matthew Parris: “There’s a pattern to Boris’s life,” he says. “It’s the casual dishonesty, the cruelty, the betrayal, and beneath the betrayal the emptiness of real ambition: the ambition to do anything useful with office once it is attained.”
So that’s our Prime Minister: a fraud and a chancer who knows – he cannot not know – that in terms of its lethality, Covid 19 is statistically proven to be no worse than a bad winter flu. And yet he would rather destroy the country than admit that the lockdown has, from the beginning, been a self-inflicted disaster of the most gigantic proportions. That, in my eyes, makes him a criminal, tout court.
Anyhow, I won’t be buying Bower’s book. I’ve got the idea already. Plus, for the last week I have had a painful stomach ache, which I know from experience is the result of long-term stress. Why make it worse with further contemplation of the egotistical monster who holds our fate in his fat clownish hands?